Artists' mobility and Schengen visas: recommendations to the European Commission/DG Home and concerned EU Member States

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Visas are one of the main challenges for artists working across borders, and the related administrative procedures can have impacts from the economic, psychological and professional point of view. And as an artist, manager, organiser, festival director etc. you probably know that problems with visas affect both the artists/cultural professionals willing to travel and the European inviting counterparts (festival, theatre, gallery, conference organiser etc.).

Time to act!

2013 is a strategic year: the European Commission - DG Home Affairs is revising the EU visa code and has opened a public online consultation to improve the procedures for obtaining short-stay "Schengen" visas. Therefore this is a unique strategic moment for the cultural sector in Europe and beyond to make its voice heard and let the EU policy-makers know about the specific needs of mobile artists as regards Schengen visas (procedures, duration, information etc.).

The online consultation is open to individuals and organisations and available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, but also Russian, Turkish, Chinese and Arabic (non EU languages).  Answers, however, must be sent in an official EU language.

What can you do? And how can we help?

We highly recommend organisations and individuals to reply to the online public consultation launched by DG Home (deadline: 17 June) and to encourage their professional networks to answer as well. 

On the Move, together with 20 of its members and 10+ organisations, networks and platforms from the cultural sector in Europe and internationally, has defined a set of recommendations to the European Union, EU Member States and cultural organisations in order to improve the situation for artists and cultural professionals travelling across the Schengen borders. The recommendations have been presented and distributed in a meeting convened by the European Commission on April 23rd, 2013 in Brussels, gathering DG Education and Culture, DG Home, representatives of EU Member States' Ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs, and of the cultural sector.

When you fill in the public online consultation you can mention OTM recommendations, include the link to this file or even send it to the address Home-Consultation-C2 (at) ec.europa.eu (specifically for organisations).

Of course, do feel free to send the recommendations to your contacts at your national Ministries of Culture, Home and Foreign Affairs. Member States have a huge responsibility in the implementation of the EU visa code and again, this is a unique strategic opportunity to influence decision-making to the benefit of artists and cultural professionals working across borders.

What can we expect?

The main obstacles faced by artists (delays, costs, information about procedures etc.) are encountered also by other categories of frequent travellers; therefore in the revision of the EU visa code it is likely that the DG Home will try to adopt a "horizontal approach" to deal with such problems. 

We at On the Move believe that such a horizontal approach is a far more realistic goal rather than advocating for specific rules for artists. However we also believe it is important to call for a long-term dialogue between national authorities in charge of issuing visas and the cultural sector. Even if no ad hoc rule can be realistically envisaged, it is feasible that DG Home invites Member States to, for example, consider the letter of the host organisation as a sufficient guarantee, train the staff in consulates and external agencies on the specificities of mobile artists and cultural professionals, issue multiple entry visas for longer terms, calls for clearer information to be published on consulates' websites, monitor effectively the services provided by external agencies processing visa applications. 

It has been clarified that before the OTM workshop on artists' mobility and Schengen visas (November 2012), the DG Home was not really aware of specific complaints from third-country artists nor from cultural organisations based in the EU, at least not in such a coordinated way. The feedback from the cultural sector is very much needed, and in particular through the online public consultation that will lead to the revision of the EU visa code by the end of 2013.

The European Commission - DG EAC and DG Home - is showing a very open approach and a real will for dialogue. Let's not waste this unique opportunity! 

What's the EU visa code, again?

The European Union established in 2010 a common set of rules for the so-called Schengen space: the EU visa code has been introduced to ease the mobility of people within the Schengen area and, by harmonising the main rules among all the States parties to the Schengen Treaty, it also eases the visa procedures for third-country nationals willing to enter the Schengen area.

In practice, however, obstacles remain, in particular for "highly mobile" workers - like artists and cultural professionals travelling frequently across the Schengen borders, or whose mobility patterns do not always fit with the standards set by the EU visa code (e.g. the "90/180 days" of the short-stay visa). Artists actually face a number of specific obstacles which also relate to their often atypical employment status. Here's the latest OTM dossier (December 2012) on the main problems faced by artists from third countries when they need a Schengen visa (incl. references to previous studies).

Mobility happens anyway - let's make it happen better!




 Image credits: "The Most International Artist in the Universe" (Tintin Wulia, 2011),
multiple-channel video installation. Video still.
Image courtesy of the artist and Osage Gallery.